Thursday, July 19, 2007

Help us pass the Dream Act!

Last Monday morning, we accompanied our friend Jose to Immigration Court here in Dallas, Texas.

Fortunately, the judge granted a continuance for his deportation case to November 5, 2007.

As we left the Federal Courthouse, Jose's attorney told us, "We've got to get the Dream Act passed. It is Jose's most realistic chance to avoid deportation."

Please help me by standing with Jose and Monica and millions of other promising young people who were brought to the United States by parents years ago when they were only children. Jose and Monica want to go on to college and they want to do so with the proper documentation.

Please help me by reading on. . . .

Background to the "American Dream Act"

Every year, U.S. high schools graduate approximately 65,000 immigrant students. Brought to this country as young children, they have grown up in American K-12 schools and share our culture and values. Like their U.S.-born peers, they dream of pursuing higher education.

Unfortunately, due to their immigration status, they are barred from the opportunities that make a college education affordable – in-state tuition rates, state and federal grants and loans, most private scholarships, and the ability to legally work their way through college. In effect, they are denied the opportunity to share in the American Dream.

If passed, the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act,” S. 774, a bipartisan federal proposal led by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Richard Lugar (R-IN), would facilitate access to college for immigrant students in the U.S. by restoring states’ rights to offer in-state tuition to immigrant students residing in their state.

The “DREAM Act” would also provide a path to citizenship for hardworking immigrant youth who were brought to the U.S. as young children and to pursuing higher education or military service, enabling them to contribute
fully to our society.

Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL),
and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced a similar proposal, the “American Dream Act,” H.R. 1275, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

What Do These Bills Do?

The “DREAM Act” provides an opportunity for U.S.-raised students to earn U.S. citizenship. The “DREAM Act” would allow certain immigrant students to adjust their status to that of a legal permanent resident on a conditional
basis for six years based on the following requirements:

  • Age. Immigrant students must have entered the U.S. before age 16.

  • Academic requirement. Students must have been accepted for admission into a two or four-year institution of higher education or have earned a high school diploma or a general educational development (GED) certificate at the time of application for relief.

  • Long-term U.S. residence. Students must reside in the U.S. when the law is enacted. In addition, those eligible must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years preceding the date of enactment of the Act.

  • Good moral character. Immigrant students must demonstrate good moral character, a defined term in immigration law. In general, students must have no criminal record.
In addition, the conditional basis upon which legal permanent residence was granted will be removed and become permanent if the student has fulfilled at least one of the following within six years:

  • Earned a degree from an institution of higher education (two- or four-year institution), or maintained good standing, for at least two years, at an institution of higher education while working toward a
    bachelor’s degree or higher.

  • Served in the U.S. Armed Forces for at least two years and, if discharged, received an honorable discharge.

The “DREAM Act” and “American Dream Act” provide work authorization and protection from deportation for students ages 12 and older. Students who are at least 12 years old, enrolled full-time in primary or secondary school, and have met all the requirements for conditional permanent legal resident status, except for high school graduation, will be eligible for protection from deportation and granted work authorization.

Why the “DREAM Act” is Important

America rewards hard work. Students in America know that by studying and achieving success in high school, they can potentially earn the reward of a college education and truly fulfill their potential. The American way is to offer equal opportunities to all and encourage all to make the most of their talents.

Current law punishes children for a decision that they did not make. America cannot continue to penalize young people who have lived in the U.S. since they were children. These individuals were brought to the U.S. as very young children and are not to blame for their lack of documentation. They have done nothing wrong and should not be punished.

These children are Americans. Granting access to the “American Dream” for kids who have grown up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, playing baseball, and eating apple pie is the right thing to do. They have sat alongside our children in the classroom. They share American values and traditions. This country is their home.

There is a significant cost to our nation in denying these children a college education. We have already made a significant investment in their K-12 education. We risk an enormous cost by cutting their education short and not reaping the full potential of our investment. There is no benefit to this nation in leaving this segment of the population undereducated and thereby relegated to second-class citizenship and low-paying jobs insufficient for supporting a family.

Status of Legislation

This week, Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Richard Lugar (R-IN) will introduce the "Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act" as an amendment to H.R. 1585, the Department of Defense authorization bill, which is now being debated in the Senate. The provisions of the DREAM Act amendment are expected to be identical to S. 774, the stand-alone "DREAM Act" bill that Senators Durbin, Hagel, and Lugar introduced earlier this spring.

The amendment will need 60 votes to pass. Its adoption would be a giant step forward for the DREAM Act, which would then stand an excellent chance of becoming law this year.

We do not yet know when the vote will be, and it is possible that procedural obstacles could prevent one from occurring at all. But regardless, it is imperative for all DREAM Act supporters to call your Senators and send an e-mail message to them today, and again tomorrow, and again every day until the vote occurs.

You can find your Senators' phone numbers and email addresses here. In the case of Texas Senators, a phone call is the easiest way to take action now.

Please act now for Jose and Monica!

Late breaking update: I spoke with staff in Senator John Cornyn's office this evening. The Defense Authorization Bill was pulled from the floor this afternoon. There is interest in attaching the Dream Act to an education bill up for consideration at this time.

The staff person I spoke with told me that Sen. Cornyn would not oppose the Dream Act, but that he likely would not actively promote it either. Unfortunate.

Still, we need to call, email, write, FAX and get the message to all of our Senators, wherever we live, to support the passage of this bill that would benefit immigrant children.

Please help us!

[For more background on Monica and Jose, type "Monica" in the Search prompt box at top of this site.]


Mike said...

I'm shocked that Cornyn's office even went that far... I'd have thought that they'd be offering to drive Jose and company back to Mexico!

From what I've seen, Cornyn has got the "conservative" part down pat, but totally overlooked the "compassionate" element that was so touted.

Out of curiosity, anyone know where Obama and Hillary stand on this bill?

Larry James said...

Mike, I understand your surprise. I was surprised as well. Cornyn won't oppose this bill.

As for Clinton and Obama, it is my understanding that they will support it. The problem is a matter of attention, what with all of the Iraq debate still raging. No one seems to want to pay attention. It is also my understanding that Sen. Kennedy is going to try to carry the bill and attach it to an education bill.

Everyone needs to call both of their Senators. It will help get the thing moving again.

Remember Monica and Jose!

mike said...

Sure thing, Larry. I'll make the calls in the morning. Has Hutchinson expressed any support?

Larry James said...

Not that I am aware of, however, I don't believe she will oppose if it comes to a vote. Thanks for your help!

Brian Littlefield said...

I don't think you understand the implications of the things you support. Do you know that giving such benefits to (most likely illegal) aliens denies, even deprives, those benefits to legal residents of the state? And before you go making any assumptions, let me assure you that I've been privy to state benefits being handed out to illegal immigrants, as well as seeing underprivileged residents denied such benefits. It's a travesty. And you support it.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I will definately make calls to my senators to show support for Dream Act. Why should those children be punished for their parents' actions.

Ashley said...

My heart goes out to everyone who are here illegal in the United States...Our parents made the decision to bring us here for a better opportunity, they work hard;harder that the americans;we don't get medical support like american oes we pay the full bil'we don;t get fincial help from government to go to college.My parents work very so hard to give myself and fellow siblings the ablity to go to college and earn an education that wil set us off as bright indivuals;y heart truly goes out because we go to college and we all are human and have our dreams and desires;so we truly deserve a chance to complish our dreams also'this is one life,we must live it with a good heart and a decent soul.let us all live as one,give us the right to move on with our dreams please I beg of the senate,our dreams and desires lie in their hands to take actions.

Giovana said...

Im in Monica and Jose shoes right now. It's sad to know right now Cornyn is not trying ot help us. I want to accomplish so many things in life but I can't. It hurts to know they don't support us. I pray to GOD Dream Act will be passed soon. It will be the greatest thing that we ever happen to me and to many students that are in my shoes.